Joseph Hachem
2005 Jason Kirk  

Joseph Hachem - Source

A look at the top of the all-time poker tournament money list today finds an unlikely name standing above all the world-class professionals you'd expect to find there: Joseph Hachem. Anyone who hasn't been hiding out in a cave all year knows by now that Hachem won the 2005 World Series of Poker Main Event, netting him a cool $7.5 million. The win vaulted him past names much more familiar both to American and international poker players and fans, making him the richest player in the history of tournament poker. That's quite a jump for a man who just a few years ago considered himself a serious hobbyist when it came to poker.

Hachem is well-known as an Australian - anyone who saw his performance this year remembers well the chants of "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi! Oi! Oi!" - but he was born in Lebanon and lived there until he was 6 years old. Once his family emigrated to Australia, things were as tough for them as one might expect. His father took ill after they arrived, and at the age of ten the young Hachem had to take up a part-time job to help his family. In his teenage years he began playing poker, mostly a variant of hold'em known as Manila played with a stripped deck of 32 cards. He continued to play this game through the years, until in 2000 he decided he was ready to make a move up. Like so many others in the newest generation of pro players, Hachem had seen the movie Rounders and took up playing hold'em as a result. He enjoyed the game and began playing it at Crown Casino in Melbourne, the largest casino in the Southern Hemisphere.

It was around this time that Hachem began playing tournaments at the Crown. At the Australasian Poker Championship in August 2000 he placed 4th in the A$360 Pot Limit Omaha event, taking home over A$5,000 for his efforts. In 2001 he cashed at the A$1,500 No-Limit Hold'em event at the same festival, and the following year he made another final table there in the A$1,000 No-Limit Hold'em event. Then something happened that had a major impact on his decision to begin taking poker more seriously. Hachem was diagnosed with a rare blood vessel disorder in his hands. He had been a chiropractor, owning his own practice for 13 years, but his condition kept him from continuing with his first love. To fill the gap, he poured himself into becoming a better poker player, reading books and studying the game with a newfound intensity.

Hachem continued to cash in smaller buy-in events at the Crown and to build his bankroll through cash games at the casino. He did well enough that he was able to make the trip to Las Vegas for the 2005 World Series of Poker. Before he entered the Main Event, the Aussie played in the $1,000 No-Limit Hold'em with Rebuys event and placed 10th, bubbling out before the final table and outlasting 884 other players to win $25,850. Then he took his shot at the Big One, putting up $10,000 of his own money for the chance to face off with over 5,600 others for a shot at the biggest prize in poker history.

Amazingly, Hachem had the best hand every time he was forced to put all his money on the line through the first 6 days of the tournament. That allowed him to build a big enough stack to advance to the final table, where he faced an uphill battle as one of the shortest stacks of the nine remaining players. Any time he attempted to make a play, Aaron Kanter made a move with his bigger stack and forced Hachem out of the hand. Then came the defining moment of his tournament: he moved all-in with the worst hand and found himself facing elimination at the hands of Kanter. Despite being a big underdog to Kanter's 9-9, Hachem's Q-7 of diamonds hit top pair on the flop and held on to win the hand. The rest, as they say, is history.

Since his big win this summer Hachem has only played in one big buy-in tournament, the Borgata Poker Open, where he finished outside the money. He plans to continue playing more international events and to bring his family along with him. He should be in good shape to accomplish this goal as he recently signed a deal to endorse the online poker room PokerStars, making him the third consecutive WSOP Main Event champion (and fourth overall) to be associated with the site. The future definitely looks bright for the newest world champion.

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